I will remain surprised as to how many people are unfamiliar with Saul Williams. And some of those who are, like me, found out about him through his opening sets for NIN, and his ongoing musical relationship with Trent Reznor. Unfortunately, many of those people write him off because they “aren’t into hip-hop”.
Saul Williams is much, much more than hip-hop. In fact, that would be a derogatory way to describe him considering the type of music currently being recorded under the genre. Plus Williams’ voice has some similar tonal qualities to Reznor’s, for those of you like me that are into stuff like that…
The Dragons of Zynth were a strong opener, blending psych rock, hip hop, and motown into their own unique sound. It’s a much cooler version of Gnarls Barkley, or a more rock ‘n roll Outkast if they were still going today. Part of this may stem from the fact that the 4 members look like they each have their own individual styles, but still manage to gel together. They had a lot of energy, jumping around onstage and into the crowd. It sufficiently warmed us up for what was to come. The singer/keyboardist/guitarist sweats so profusely that I thought he might pass out at one point. He seriously needs a towel onstage…I saw a few people in the front row cringe. That was my only complaint.
The guitarist and keyboardist each have an Indian feather in their hair, amongst other bright and unusual articles of clothing. The bloops and bleeps man has a Busta Rhymesque hair and glasses that light up and animate. And then Saul Williams comes out, looking like Bob Mackie designed his out while tripping his balls off, or maybe an Indian superhero. He had a blue ‘hawk and a jacket with a red cape of synthetic hair flowing from it, and a star painted on his face, paying homage to the Bowie persona that inspired his album name, ‘Niggy Tardust’.
Before the set started, I heard some girl say “I hope he does some of his spoken word stuff, and not all of this Trent Reznor shit”. Hmmm. While you can definitely hear the NIN influence on Tardust, it’s not that far of a stretch from his previous work. I would think that someone who knows and supports Saul Williams would see that he’s not the type of artist to lose his roots when working with a producer, so I put the people expressing those sentiments in the same category as those who were pissed off about ‘stealing his album name from Bowie’ (read the comments).
People were in absolute awe of this performance. Saul Williams was definitely born to be a performer. He has so much energy and passion on stage, and it comes through his Tardust material, his previous album material, his spoken word, between song commentary, and U2 cover equally. At the end of the night, no songs blended together, nor did I feel like one didn’t come across well live.
It’s rare to go to a show that feels as intelligent as it does fun. If they are coming to a town near you, go dear friend. They are not to be missed.
Saul Williams performance: 9.5/10
Dragons of Zynth performance: 8/10
venue (Slim’s): 8/10
value ($20/ticket): 10/10
Banged and Blown Through
Sunday Bloody Sunday
List of Demands
CX Kidtronik, Williams’ bleeps and bloops man, performs as song off his solo album.
HRC w/ CX Kidtronik